By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
“The radiance of the risen Lord shines upon us”. Thus opens a joint message from all five of England and Wale’s Metropolitan Archbishops. These include: Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster; Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool; Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham; George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff; and John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark. This message was released by through the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales on Friday.
Light of the resurrection
The Bishops emphasize that Christ’s resurrection still “shines forever to renew and restore our hope” even amidst life’s shadows. They refer to Pope Francis’s words during the prayer in St Peter’s Square on 27 March urging us to heed once again the “proclamation that saves us” during this time of forced isolation. That proclamation is: “He is risen and is living by our side”.
Effects of Covid-19
Then the Archbishops turn their attention to the ways that life has changed due to Covid-19. Among them, they list the high numbers of people who have died and those who are “selflessly” working to "sustain the life of our nation”.
In addressing the lockdown measures regarding Catholic churches, the Bishops acknowledge that they are meant “to stem the general transmission of the virus”. Furthermore, they declare “it is right that the Catholic community fulfils its role in contributing to the preservation of life and the common good of society”. However, they go on to admit that while the digital transmission of the Mass is “playing an important role in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute” for physical presence for the reception of the sacraments.
Pain associated with lack of Sacraments
The Archbishops also give voice to the pain of the faithful who cannot “pray in church or receive the sacraments”. Every bishop and priest is aware of that pain, they write, and “it weighs heavily on our hearts”. Further, they express they are “deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning expressed by so many members of the faithful”. They then assure the faithful that their pastors are “remembering you and your loved ones at Mass each day”. They also look forward to the future relaxing of restrictions so that churches might resume their “liturgical, spiritual, catechetical and pastoral life”. While they admit they do not know when that time will come, they also reassure the faithful that they are planning now in view of that moment. “Together with Catholics across England and Wales we desire the opening of our churches and access to the sacraments. Until then, we are continuing to pray and prepare”.
A special word of gratitude is directed to those providing services at all levels of the Church. This includes what families and the lay faithful are doing at home to nourish the faith. The Archbishops pay special “tribute” to Catholic charitable “organisations and networks that are working to support the vulnerable and needy”.
The Archbishops conclude their message reminding their flock that the first words of the Risen Lord to the disciples in lockdown was “Peace be with you”. They invoke this same peace of Christ, praying that it might “reign in our hearts and homes” as they await the day when “we can enter church again and gather around the altar to offer together the Sacrifice of Praise”.
Coronavirus in the UK
The United Kingdom has reported 177,454 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Of these, 27,510 people have died from it. It was first detected in the UK around 28 February.